Local SEO first began to make headway in 2005, thanks to the introduction of Google Maps, and Maps data being merged into the Local Business Centre. This allowed users to search for specific businesses. Since then, local SEO has developed and evolved into something much larger; and much more influential. In 2007, Google began to present local business information in SERPs while also letting business owners have more control over their Google listings.
Google Updates for Local SEO
Over nearly the past decade, local SEO has continued to grow thanks to Google’s regular updates, bringing us the likes of Venice, Pigeon and more recently Possum. These updates have allowed for a number of different strategies, including unique results and specific keywords based on location.
With the launch of Google My Business in 2014, it’s clear that local SEO is still an ongoing development that continues to be streamlined and improved.
Now, local SEO is more useful, and more competitive, than ever before. 46% of all searches on Google are local, while 50% of those searching for local results are looking for business information such as addresses. The most recent update, Possum, has diversified local rankings; including an update of Google’s filter that applies to local results. Businesses that originally fell outside of the city limits have benefitted, while the physical location of the searcher is now more important.
What’s more, Google’s Local Pack has now been reduced from 7 to 3. This was rolled out across all platforms, and all countries almost immediately. Desktop search results now appear similar to mobile searches; 3 Local Pack search results fit perfectly on a mobile screen. It may be that Google did this from a user experience perspective, or it simply just wanted to show the most relevant results. The Local 3 Pack appears in the top spot in 93% of searches with local intent.
But why should you really get involved in local SEO? What if you’re a national brand? Local SEO can help businesses of all sizes, in all locations. The amount of ‘near me’ searches has increased drastically over the last 1-2 years, so even if you have stores all over the country, you can implement local SEO to help people find your closest location.
At the end of the day, if you don’t have a successful local SEO strategy, your customers might never find you. Your aim is to dominate your area when it comes to your industry.
So how do you create a local SEO strategy that will boost your business’ ranking and ensure that you stand out amongst your competitors? Local search ranking factors have changed over the past years, making it more difficult to rank for local search keywords, but there are a number of strategies you can put in place to help.
Create a Google My Business Page
Having a Google My Business page is still very relevant, and Google have been pushing this and encouraging local businesses to claim their page. Adding as much information as possible to a Google My Business page can help to set your business apart from competitors and those who haven’t verified their own listing.
By adding more information, you can also increase your chances of appearing in Google’s Local Pack.
Write local content
To allow your business to compete successfully for local SEO, it’s crucial that you are writing local content on your site. This could mean anything from regularly updating your blog with local news and events, to creating city-specific pages for your website.
Write your content with city-specific keywords and unique pages for each of your locations, if your business operates in multiple cities.
Create authoritative backlinks
Taking advantage of online business directories can provide those necessarily backlinks to your local business’ website. Many citation sites actually have credibility with Google, which can have a positive effect on where it shows in the search results.
In some cases, online directories can actually dominate the top few searches, helping your business to appear at the top.
Depending on your business-type, you may benefit from different kinds of backlinks. For example, if you are a small local business in one town, make sure you’re listed on the business directories that operate in that town. This can ensure you are found for searches relating to your business or your area. If you’re a national business with various locations, you can aim a little higher and reach out to bigger publications in order to boost your outreach efforts that little bit more.
Encourage online reviews
It’s recently been revealed that online reviews are a major factor in achieving higher local rankings. Sites with the most reviews will actually outrank other businesses, while positive reviews will naturally help to gain customers’ trust and even attract new business.
A recent confirmation from Google themselves has revealed that ads are now coming to the Local Pack. The first result in the 3-pack will now be a paid-for ad, with the following two results being organic listings.
It’s clear that quick fix SEO no longer works; both customers and Google itself are cleverer than ever before and are incredibly savvy to shortcuts taken by local businesses. Development in local SEO has come a long way, and more diverse strategies are needed to ensure your local business ranks high on Google.
To get your local SEO strategy up to scratch, get in touch with our SEO experts!